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Gamecocks in NIT final for 2nd time in 4 seasons

NEW YORK (AP) -- South Carolina wasn't going to let Maryland pull
this one out -- no matter how many people were rooting for yet
another comeback.

Carlos Powell scored 17 points and grabbed 12 rebounds, and the
Gamecocks thwarted the sloppy Terrapins 75-67 Tuesday night to
reach the NIT championship game.

"We just tried to pick it up in the second half," Powell said.
"We knew they were going to go on a run so we just tried to stay a
lot more aggressive than them."

The Gamecocks (19-13) crashed the boards all night, pulling down
20 offensive rebounds -- 44 overall.

Now they are in the NIT final for the second time in four
seasons and will face Saint Joseph's for the title on Thursday
night.

The Hawks (24-11) eliminated Memphis 70-58 in the opener of the
doubleheader at Madison Square Garden.

That was good news for the Gamecocks, who lost the 2002 NIT
championship game to Memphis and were knocked out of the NCAA
Tournament last year by the Tigers in the first round.

"Now that I don't have to play them, I can say that's who I was
pulling for," South Carolina coach Dave Odom said. ``I wanted one
more shot at them ... that's not true.

"Memphis is a great team with a great coach but Saint Joe's is
the one that's been dealt to us and we'll have our hands full with
them."

The Terrapins had made coming-from-behind a common occurrence in
the NIT. In the first round, they trailed Oral Roberts by 13 in
first half and by 16 in the second round to Davidson.

Even in the quarterfinal victory over TCU, Maryland rallied from
two second-half deficits to advance. But those games were on its
home floor. The partisan New York crowd tried to make the Terps
feel at home, but it wasn't enough.

"They have made a lot of comebacks and we've allowed a lot of
comebacks," Odom said. "It did concern me, but hopefully that's a
sign that we're past that."

The Gamecocks were 62.5 percent from the foul line, but they
made enough free throws down the stretch to hold off Maryland.
South Carolina turned the ball over 13 times.

Josh Gonner scored 11 of his 12 points in the first half, when
South Carolina turned an early five-point deficit into a 14-point
lead.

Powell had only six points in the first half, but he surpassed
his 16.4 average with a solid final 20 minutes.

South Carolina players clapped their way into this title game as
their teammates paraded to the foul line during the final minute.

Travis Garrison, Chris McCray and Mike Jones each scored 15
points for Maryland, which had another of its long-running,
positive streaks snapped.

The Terrapins (19-13) were looking for their ninth straight
20-win season, but fell a game short.

Maryland missed the NCAA Tournament this season after making 11
straight trips, and was trying to win a consolation prize in the
NIT three years after winning the national championship.

"The program is not going away, it's just we didn't have as
good of a year as we wanted to have," Maryland coach Gary Williams
said. "I don't think we're going anywhere, I just think we have to
work hard to get where we want to be next year."

The Terps tried to make another of their signature comebacks in
the second half, after trailing by as many as 18 points.

But careless ball-handling, hard passes that smacked off hands
and sailed out of bounds, poor defensive rebounding and missed
layups made a rally impossible.

South Carolina led 41-29 at the break and stretched that
advantage to 53-35 when the Gamecocks scored consecutive layups 13
seconds apart less than 3 minutes into the second half.

Maryland guard Sterling Ledbetter had 11 turnovers in the first
three games of the NIT, starting in place of the injured John
Gilchrist, but he tied the team-high for the season with six
against South Carolina.

The Terps finished with 21 turnovers, just two off a
season-worst.

South Carolina's good shooting in the first-half (43.2 percent)
rubbed off on the team mascot, who drilled a halfcourt shot during
halftime.

The Gamecocks trail the series 31-27 but improved to 8-1 over
Maryland at neutral sites.

Game notes
South Carolina shot at least 40 percent from the field for
19 straight games before the Southeastern Conference tournament.
The Gamecocks got back on track in the first three games of the
NIT, but finished at 37.5 percent against Maryland. ... Williams
went 14-12 against Odom when Odom was in the ACC at Wake Forest.